13 years later, Humphries hopes Bolts can win a playoff game Print
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Thursday, 03 January 2008 15:41
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 SAN DIEGO (AP) -Stan Humphries will be watching on TV from his Louisiana home Sunday, wondering the same thing everybody else will be: Is this the year the San Diego Chargers finally win a playoff game?
Humphries guided the Chargers to a stunning upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC championship game 13 years ago, and it's been all downhill ever since for the Bolts in the postseason.
The Chargers are on a four-game losing streak that started with that bruising 49-26 loss to San Francisco in the Super Bowl on Jan. 29, 1995.
They've been one-and-done three times since then, once under Bobby Ross and twice under Marty Schottenheimer. On Sunday against Tennessee, they'll try to win under Norv Turner, who's 1-1 in the postseason in his 10-year head coaching career.
Star running back LaDainian Tomlinson has yet to experience a playoff win in his spectacular seven-year career, going 0-2.
``I feel sorry for him,'' Humphries said. ``I'm hoping it's going to happen this week.''
The former quarterback is among those who are puzzled by the Chargers' recent playoff failures.
They lost to the New York Jets in overtime after the 2004 season. Last year, they went an NFL-best 14-2 to wrap up the AFC's No. 1 seed, then melted down in an unfathomable flood of blunders in a 24-21 loss to New England.
``With the talent they have and everything, I don't know,'' Humphries said. ``When you work all year long to get that home game and then to let that slip by, that's hard. I know it's frustrating for those guys but it's not because they're not out there busting it. It's breaks here and there. The other thing about it, you catch teams that are hot at different points.''
Humphries knows about that.
Two weeks after Humphries, ``Touchdown'' Tony Martin, Alfred Pupunu and Natrone Means stunned the Steelers, they were humiliated in the franchise's only Super Bowl.
The 49ers ``were almost unstoppable that year,'' Humphries said. ``They got on a roll and they just rolled everybody.''
Steve Young tore apart San Diego's secondary so quickly that it took away the Chargers' running game and play-action, and they never caught up.
San Diego barely made it back into the playoffs the next season and was quickly ushered out by Jim Harbaugh and the Indianapolis Colts in a home wild-card game.
``Again, you're talking about a team that got hot,'' Humphries said. ``They got into the playoffs at the end of the year. Harbaugh was leading comebacks and making wild throws at the end of games, and winning games. They were just a team that got hot. We made mistakes that day and they took advantage of it.''
The Colts came within an incomplete pass of making it to the Super Bowl that season.
The Chargers then missed the playoffs for eight long years, a span that included the nightmarish Kevin Gilbride and Ryan Leaf years. Humphries retired after the 1997 season, forced out by concussions.
The Chargers are in the playoffs for the third time in four seasons.
General manager A.J. Smith, who has assembled one of the NFL's most-talented teams, refused to be interviewed this week about the playoff failures during his watch.
``He doesn't want to do anything right now. Would prefer to wait,'' spokesman Bill Johnston said.
Smith certainly is aware of the number.
``We've come pretty far pretty fast, but we're not there,'' Smith said before April's draft. ``We're 0-2 in the playoffs. That doesn't bode well. We'll see what happens this year.''
Asked before training camp about last year's playoff flop, Smith said: ``I have a lot of theories as to why we didn't achieve those things, and I don't care to express them right now. That's it, man.''
Perhaps that's a shot at Schottenheimer, whose playoff failings are legendary. His two losses with the Chargers ran Schottenheimer's career postseason mark to 5-13. Schottenheimer and Smith had an icy relationship, and the coach was fired in February by team president Dean Spanos, apparently because he wanted to hire his brother, Kurt, as defensive coordinator.
If it's any consolation to the Bolts, their postseason misery is hardly the worst in the NFL.
Detroit and Kansas City have lost six straight playoff games - Schottenheimer's fingerprints are all over the Chiefs' streak - while the Dallas Cowboys have dropped five straight. Buffalo and San Diego are tied with four straight.
Smith, by the way, was Buffalo's director of pro personnel when the Bills lost the ``Music City Miracle'' wild-card game to Tennessee on Jan. 8, 2000.
San Diego has won six straight and 10 of 12 overall. Humphries is impressed, but thinks they need to score more points. The Chargers beat the Titans 23-17 in overtime at Nashville on Dec. 9.
``It's going to be tough,'' Humphries said. ``It's going to come down to not allowing a team to have a short field because both defenses will play well.''
When the Chargers made it to the Super Bowl 13 years ago, they thought they'd be back at some point.
``I mean, all those guys, when we got to the Super Bowl, they'd all say, 'Hey, I'm young, I'll be around another seven, eight, nine years, and we'll get back again.' But it just doesn't happen,'' Humphries said.

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